Tomas Sandell

The Palestinians deserve better

The UN statehood bid signals an escalation in the strategy of 'lawfare' against Israel

While all the media attention over the last few weeks has been on Gaza another less visible war is gaining momentum at the United Nations this week, ”the diplomatic war.” This Thursday, the 29th November, the PA president Mahmoud Abbas will ask for an upgrade of the PA status at the UN to that of an observer non-member state, thus acting in breach of the Oslo agreement which stipulates that ”neither side shall initiate or take any steps that will change the status of the West Bank and Gaza strip, pending the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations.” (Article 31)

The historic date has been carefully chosen. On November 29th, 1947, the UN announced its Partition Plan for Palestine which, and this is important to note, was accepted by the Jewish community in Palestine but firmly rejected by the Arab side. In other words, if the Arabs would have accepted the partition plan in 1947, there would be no Palestinian refugees today and a Palestinian state could celebrate its 65th anniversary. As the old saying goes, ”the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

The UN is again showing its lack of impartiality by observing this day solely as an ”International day of solidarity with the Palestinian people” while at the same time being quiet about the great achievements of the Jewish state. If one takes a brief look at the NGO program one will find the same anti-Israeli groups who met in Durban in 2001 and have not missed any opportunities since to bash Israel for every imaginable crime. But the biggest crime for these groups is probably the core existence of a Jewish state, hence the ”nakba” cry. If the creation of a Jewish state in itself is a catastrophe, there is only a slim chance of ever finding a solution to the conflict.

This year’s anniversary will add more drama to the show. On Thursday the Palestinian leader ( the one who controls the West bank, that is ) Mahmoud Abbas will try to bring himself back into the international limelight by declaring a Palestinian state. Again. It happened once already in 1988 and was repeated again at the opening session of the General Assembly of the UN in September of 2011 when Abbas promised to bring his new statehood bid to the UN Security Council, which he eventually failed to do. So what makes this Thursday different?

Although the international community agree that this declaration will not change the realities on the ground, the Palestinians, if they go through with their plans, will have stepped up their international “lawfare” against Israel on a new level. In a PA briefing paper about ”the day after” their leaders have already mapped out a number of initiatives that they plan following the declaration in order to bring additional pressure on the Israeli government; among other things, to bring Israeli leaders before the International Criminal Court in order to prosecute them for war crimes. This explains why neither the US nor the EU have been happy with the move. They know all too well that this will lead nowhere nearer to peace in the region, but that they are nevertheless expected to pick up the tab. There is a limit, however, to how much European and American taxpayers are willing to pay for the endless international campaigns of Palestinian law-fare against Israel instead of sitting down and negotiating.

In the meantime many innocent Palestinians continue to suffer. But not necessarily under Israeli occupation, as the conventional wisdom would have it, but rather under an incompetent, cruel and corrupt Palestinian leadership. Their iconic leader Yasser Arafat was said by Forbes Magazine to be one of the wealthiest persons in the Middle East at the time. His successors are no different. In a new Palestinian report, Abbas is accused of having put away huge amounts of money in foreign bank accounts knowing that his time at the helm of the PA may soon come to an end. In his desperation to come back to the limelight he is obviously also willing to risk the future of his own people.

For too long the explanations for Palestinian hardship has been sought in the Israeli occupation. Perhaps it is now time to ask the obvious question; when will the Palestinian people take responsibility for their own future by appointing capable leaders that are courageous enough to sit down and negotiate and put the interest of their people ahead of their own interests?

Over the course of the last few months I have met with several Palestinians who have blamed me, as a European, for the chaos in the Middle East. ”You guys finance our corrupt leaders,” said an angry Palestinian taxi driver in Jerusalem.

I have also spoken to Palestinian intellectuals that acknowledge that their problems are mainly internal. The law student that I spoke to had to flee the West Bank because of his statements and the taxi driver would probably run me over if I quoted him by name. The price for criticizing the PA leaders is too high.

Back at the accusers bench we will find European and American taxpayers, this writer included, who continue year after year to fund corrupt Palestinian leaders without any questions asked. As long as their leaders are not made accountable for their corruption, human rights violations and refusal to sit down and negotiate, there can be no viable Palestinian state. The Palestinian people deserve something better.

About the Author
Tomas Sandell is a Finnish journalist who has been accredited by the European Union. He is today the Founding Director of European Coalition for Israel.